Dysart et al council debated how to best fulfill its plans to convert some gravel roads to hard-top and which ones should take priority.
Council discussed the matter Jan. 26 and deferred any decisions until a Feb. 8 budget meeting. It also approved a list of capital road resurfacing projects for the next two years, which include 30.49 kilometres for approximately $1.5 million.
Deputy mayor Patrick Kennedy said despite council’s intent in 2018 to address hard-top roads the municipality previously pulverized to gravel, it has yet to make any progress halfway through the term. Staff did not include those projects in the approved resurfacing list for 2021 and 2022.
“We’ve made the commitment, but I think we’re going to have to step up. We’re going to end up having to borrow,” Kennedy said.
At a previous budget meeting, director of public works, Rob Camelon, said it is difficult for booked-up staff to do the ditching preparation work needed. Council is considering additional money in the budget to contract that work out. Kennedy suggested ditching should happen in 2021 to prepare gravel-to-hard-top projects in 2022.
Coun. John Smith said it should be cost-effective to push up these projects, considering the money saved on maintenance, dust control and gravel. He added it should be possible without impacting the levy through reserves and federal gas tax funding.
“It’s a simple question of business economics,” Smith said. He pushed for a Redkenn Road conversion to be added on the capital list given its traffic and relatively short 1.4-kilometre distance.
Coun. Walt McKechnie pushed for Dunn Road and Klondike Road to get converted to hard-top. He said residents there have waited for a long time for it.
“The people have been waiting on Dunn and Klondike twice as long as people on Redkenn,” McKechnie said. “It’s a joke now whenever I talk to people. ‘Oh yeah, Walt. You’ll get it done, you’ll get it done.’”
Coun. Larry Clarke expressed concern over individual roads getting favoured. He said the municipality invested in software to determine what roads are addressed, based on factors such as traffic count.
“If we start identifying one road because we’re getting a bunch of letters from one part of the constituency, we’re going to get no end of squeaky wheels,” Clarke said. “If we want to start arm-wrestling on this stuff, I can make things ugly. Let’s work with a set process on how we’re establishing what the priorities are for roads being done.”
Mayor Andrea Roberts said it would make sense to wade further into the discussion on a dedicated budget day.
“We can’t just throw out roads indiscriminately,” Roberts said. “We need to give these people an answer, and the answer may not be what they want to hear.”
Council directed staff to review what resurfacing projects could be done and bring back a report Feb. 8.